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Sunday, August 31, 2008

[Chicago Pizza Interview] Burt Katz

Burt Katz is an icon in the Chicago pizza world. He has owned four different pizzerias: Inferno (RIP), Gulliver's, Pequod's, and the eponymous Burt's Place. When the CPC invaded Burt's Place on July 23, 2008, I had a chance to briefly talk to the man himself.

Burt was not much on pontificating on the meaning of pizza or his place in the pizza world, and he was unwilling to give up any secrets at all.

His most famous contribution to pizzaology was the invention of the caramelized crust. I asked him what gave him the idea, and he shrugged and said something about kids not eating their crust and that their parents would eat the crust with the cheese. If that seems confusing, it is, since the parents ate the crusts without cheese as well. He did confirm that the cheese for caramelization goes on before the pizza is put in the oven, so I got that nugget.

He was even less forthcoming about the ingredients in his pies, answering my question about his sausage supplier with, "Why should I tell you that?" He did say that he goes to a market every morning to buy the vegetables he will cut himself and use on the day's pizzas. He also said he gets his sausage from a small butcher and that the sausage is expensive. When he found the butcher (which he had to do after his previous sausage supplier retired), he told him to make his best sausage and not worry about the price. Katz repeatedly emphasized that his goal was not to make as much money as possible.

That was actually a theme he repeated when discussing what he pays for ingredients, how much he charges for pizza, and why there is only one Burt's place. Both Burt and his wife Sharon told me separately that they have had numerous offers from investors who wanted to franchise Burt's, but he stressed that he makes enough money and that he didn't want to have to worry about monitoring the quality of other peoples' work.

Burt offers fewer toppings than most people and responded to my question about it by rhetorically asking how many toppings people need. He also said that he's told regular customers who ask for different toppings that if they bring the toppings in, he'll put them on a pizza. He even stores jars of artichoke hearts for one customer and puts them on his pizzas.

As for eating pizzas, Burt says he almost never does; not his own and not anybody else's. Sharon eats Burt's pies a couple of times a week, and that's the only pizza she eats.


  1. Hey ich liebe Pizza mit Hollandaise, Gyros, Knoblauch, Scharf und Schafskäse....Die Beste Pizza der Welt..hmmm...lecker ist das...

  2. Can i work in a restarant in Chigago..Please....Liebe Grüße von Anna aus Deutschland....Melde mich wieder...ich liebe Pizza und backe sehr gut Pizza mit tollen Zutaten....Rukola, Spinat, kennt ihr Gold Pizza...bei uns gibt es Goly Currywurst...Ein Hit unter den Promis---Heidi Klum war schon da....LG ANNA